Sirmione, Lake Garda: what to see, where to eat and what to do in the evening

Sirmione is one of the most beautiful places in the Lake Garda area, between Veneto and Lombardy, much appreciated by Italian and foreign tourists. Thanks to the poet Catullus, it is also known as ” the pearl of the islands and peninsulas ” and as a spa destination renowned for the healing properties of its waters .

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was incorporated into the Lombard kingdom, and during the Scaligera lordship, in the thirteenth century, the surrounding walls and the imposing fortress were built. Today it houses a spa of international level and offers visitors an interesting and extensive historical and artistic heritage: the remains of an ancient Roman villa (the Grotte di Catullo), the Rocca Scaligera and the church of S. Pietro in Mavino, as well as a suggestive and romantic historic center, organized beaches where you can also practice water sports, hotels, lodges and restaurants.

What to see in Sirmione

1 – Scaliger Castle

It is a fortress whose construction dates back to the mid-thirteenth century, in the Scala era, with the aim of guarding the only access point by land to the historic center of the city. The fortress is one of the rare examples of lake fortification but also one of the best preserved and most complete castles in all of Italy.

In addition to the three towers and the forty-seven meters high keep, it is surrounded on all four sides by the waters of the lake : this detail makes the appearance of the fortress truly suggestive and almost fairytale. You can also walk the walkways and watch a splendid panorama of Lake Garda by climbing the 146 steps of a wide staircase.

  • How to get: in Piazza Castello; leave your car in one of the paid parking lots near the historic center, which is closed to traffic and entirely pedestrian. One of the largest car parks is the Monte Baldo Parking, 850 meters from the Castle, about 8 minutes on foot – 
  • Timetables: Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 to 19:30, Sunday and holidays from 8:30 to 13:30, closed on Mondays
  • Ticket cost: single ticket € 6.00, first Sunday of the month free admission; joint ticket Scaligero Castle, Grottoes of Catullus and Roman Villa of Desenzano € 14.00

2 – Grottoes of Catullus

Although the name refers to the typical underground cavities, the point of interest is an ancient Roman domus built between the end of the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD It is one of the unmissable attractions of Sirmione, an archaeological site of great historical importance as it is the most important example of a Roman villa in northern Italy .

Before the excavations the site was covered with vegetation, the visible parts had the appearance of caves, hence the name of “caves”. There is no certain evidence but it seems that the villa was owned by Gaius Valerio Catullo , who refers to possessions in Sirmione in a poem.

  • How to get: in Piazza Orti Manara, 4; you can only get there on foot by walking through the center and following the signs, or in the summer months with the electric train that goes from Piazza Piatti to Piazzale Orti Manara at the entrance to the archaeological site – 
  • Timetables: from the last Sunday of March to the last Saturday of October on weekdays from 8:30 to 19:30, holidays from 8:30 to 14:00, closed on Tuesdays; from the last Sunday of October to the last Saturday of March on weekdays from 8:30 to 17:00, holidays from 8:30 to 14:00, closed on Tuesday
  • Ticket cost: € 8.00 full ticket, € 4.00 reduced ticket (for European citizens between 18 and 25 years old), free ticket for children under 18, every first Sunday of the month and on the occasion of special events

3 – Historic center

The access bridge to Sirmione leads directly to the historic center of the village, made up of characteristic alleys and streets .

Walking through the center, perhaps eating an ice cream (there are many ice cream shops), it is possible to look at the shop windows and buy souvenirs, food and wine specialties, local handicrafts. There are also trendy boutiques and luxury shops. For a more romantic walk there is the road that runs along the lake, from where it is possible to admire a very suggestive panorama .

  • How to get: close to the pedestrianized historic center there are large paid tourist car parks (via XXV Aprile, Monte Baldo Parking, GrifoParking Parking), some equipped with shuttles to the center (which is still very close) 
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

4 – Church of Sant’Anna della Rocca

Close to the walls of the Scaligera fortress, this small church initially served as a chapel for the small community , for the Captain and for about twenty guards on duty. Its construction dates back to the mid-1300s but, over the course of history, it has undergone changes and enrichments: in the 15th century it was decorated with a cross vault and frescoes.
Inside there is a precious effigy of the Madonna with Child , painted on stone, which also bears the Scaligeri coat of arms.

The church is very popular and is still a place of meditation and prayer not only for citizens but also for tourists and vacationers.

  • How to get: in the historic center, near the walls of the Scaligero Castle, in Piazza Castello 1, 
  • Timetables: there are no precise opening and closing times, they vary according to the season, usually in high season it remains open until late
  • Ticket cost: free

5 – Church of San Pietro in Mavino

It is an ancient church , the first references to this place of worship were found in a manuscript dating back to 756 AD. Over the centuries it has undergone changes and renovations, particularly in the period between 1300 and 1400.
The restructuring interventions that took place in different historical periods can be seen above all externally, where different architectures can be distinguished, such as the symmetrical lines of the structure and the rounded and wide rose windows, which appear much more modern than the original project.

Preserved inside the church there are some frescoes of significant importance , including the trilogy of San Michele and the one representing San Simone.

  • How to get: in Via S. Pietro in Mavino; it can be reached on foot after a short climb from the historic center – 
  • Timetables: every day from 9:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: free

6 – Church of Santa Maria Maggiore

It is also called Santa Maria della Neve and is the parish church of Sirmione. Like the church of Sant’Anna, it rests on the fortification walls of medieval origin that closed the village to the north. It dates back to the end of the 15th century, to access it you have to cross a beautiful five-arched portico that was once part of the cemetery adjacent to the church, as evidenced by five tombs visible on the floor.

In the churchyard there is a monument dedicated to Jupiter , later reused as an alms box, while the last column of the portico is a milestone dedicated to the emperor Julian the Apostate, who lived in the fourth century AD.

  • How to get: in via S. Maria Maggiore, 21, in the historic center, within walking distance – 
  • Timetables: every day from 9:00 to 18:00
  • Ticket cost: free

7 – Thermal baths

Sirmione is the most famous spa town in all of Lake Garda and one of the most popular and well-known in Italy.
The thermal waters of Sirmione have been used for centuries for spa treatments and beauty treatments, in fact they have beneficial properties that can act on the cardiovascular, osteoarticular and respiratory systems, and are also used in the treatment of dermatological and gynecological diseases.

There are several and numerous spas in Sirmione to choose from, but the most traditional are the Terme di Virgilio and the Terme di Catullo .

  • How to get: on foot from the historic center –
  • Timetables: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from 9:00 to 22:00, Thursday from 11:00 to 24:00, Friday and Saturday from 9:00 to 24:00; reservations are always required on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Ticket cost: based on the length of stay and the day of the week, starting from € 22.00

8 – Jamaica Beach and other beaches

Just outside the town center there is a unique and enchanted place, a small stone beach called Jamaica Beach. It can be reached via a path that descends into the entrance area of ​​the archaeological area of ​​the Catullus caves.

The beach is particular because, due to the lack of rain, the waters of the lake sometimes drop by about 30-60 cm and the stone slabs of the seabed emerge. Crossing them, you will have the sensation of walking right in the middle of the lake ! In Sirmione there are also other beaches that are worth a visit for their beauty, such as Lido delle Bionde, characterized by crystal clear waters with restaurant, bar and the possibility to rent canoes and pedal boats.

  • How to get: immediately after the entrance gate of the thermal baths, head towards the complex of villas by the lake – 
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

9 – Walk of the Muses

It is a pedestrian walk that starts right under the walls of the Scaligero Castle and is easily accessible by skirting the walls of the Rocca.

It is a route recommended for everyone but especially for couples, since the white pebble beach, the clear water of the lake and the abundance of flowers create a particularly suggestive and romantic landscape .
Furthermore, along the entire promenade, you reach the Lido delle Bionde and the tip of the peninsula.

  • How to get: on foot under the walls of the Scaligero Castle –
  • Timetables: always accessible
  • Ticket cost: free

10 – Isola del Garda

Moving away from the town center, it is possible to discover an enchanted place, where time seems to have stopped. With a beautiful boat excursion from Sirmione you can get to Isola del Garda, a rocky island, reachable only by small boats and at set times.

The island is in fact private, but the noble family that still lives there allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of the place. It is possible to admire a luxuriant green park and the sumptuous villa . The island can only be reached with guided tours organized by the Cavazza family.

  • How to get: the excursions start from piazzale Porto, in the historic center a few steps from the fortress –
  • Timetables: from the end of March to October, if the weather conditions allow the excursion. From Sirmione boats leave on Tuesdays at 3.15pm and on Thursdays at 3.45pm
  • Ticket cost: adults € 39.00, children from 5 to 12 years € 22.00

Sirmione itinerary in one day

As soon as you arrive in Sirmione, leave your car in one of the paid areas near the center, and start the walk in the historic center, where all the points of interest of the town are collected. You can have breakfast at the Bar della Torre , at the beginning of the pedestrian area, with an average cost of € 5.00.
Continue to the first stop, the famous Scaligero Castle, the fortification that was intended to protect the village . You can also visit the keep and the patrol walkways of the walls.
After the visit to the fortress, continue with the exploration of the narrow streets of the center , perhaps dedicating yourself to the purchase of a souvenir, choosing from local handicrafts or food and wine products.

After having lunch at Trattoria La Fiasca , with an average cost of € 25.00, stop at the Church of Sant’Anna della Rocca and then head towards the Grotte di Catullo, one of the main attractions of Sirmione . Once the visit is over, return to the center and, if you have time left before dinner, you can visit the Church of San Pietro in Mavino.

The center of Sirmione is full of typical trattorias and restaurants, we recommend that you end the day at Viandante Mangia e Bevi , with an average cost of € 37.00. After dinner you can enjoy the views of the lake, perhaps enjoying an ice cream by trying one of the many ice cream parlors in the town.

One day itinerary at a glance

  1. Breakfast at Bar della Torre
  2. Castello Scaligero – opening hours: from Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 to 19:30, Sunday and holidays from 8:30 to 13:30, closed on Mondays – ticket price: full € 6.00
  3. Historic center – always accessible – free
  4. Lunch at Trattoria La Fiasca
  5. Church of Sant’Anna della Rocca – opening hours: there are no opening and closing hours, they vary according to the season – ticket price: free
  6. Grotte di Catullo – timetables – ticket cost: full € 8.00
  7. Church of San Pietro in Mavino – opening hours: every day from 9:00 to 18:00 – ticket price: free
  8. Dinner at Viandante Mangia e Bevi

Where to eat in Sirmione

  1. Trattoria La Fiasca : typical cuisine, traditional specialties and lake fish
    Average price per person: € 25.00
    Address and contacts: Via S. Maria Maggiore, 11 
  2. Viandante Mangia e Bevi : restaurant, pizzeria and bar in the historic center with a view of the Scaligero Castle
    Average price per person: € 37.00
    Address and contacts: Via Vittorio Emanuele, 2 
  3. La Dolce Vita in Sirmione : traditional Mediterranean cuisine with meat and fish menu
    Average price per person: € 30.00
    Address and contacts: Piazza Unità D’Italia, 3

What to do in the evening: nightlife areas and the best clubs

Sirmione is a quiet town and there is no so-called “nightlife”.
There are no discos or disco pubs to enjoy the evening, but there are many places to enjoy an aperitif or a drink , perhaps at sunset with the view of the lake.

Those wishing to spend the evening at the disco must therefore go towards Desenzano del Garda or other nearby locations. However, the small nightclubs in Sirmione attract many young people and not only.

  • Cafè Damm Atrà : aperitifs, after dinner, wide choice of wines and champagne, alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails / Address: Piazza Unità D’Italia, 16 
  • Perlage Wine and Cocktail : particular location with a suggestive outdoor space, ideal for aperitifs and happy hours / Address: Piazza Mercato 12 
  • Hi ki Beach : luxury bathing establishment with private beach, happy hour with music and aperitif at sunset / Address: Via Benaco, 18 

Plan your stay in Sirmione: info and useful tips

  • How to get: by car, through the Milan-Venice motorway, exit at Sirmione or Desenzano del Garda. There is no train station in Sirmione but you can get off at Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera station, and then take the bus to Sirmione. From Desenzano you will find the direct bus line LN026, travel time about 20 minutes, ticket cost € 2.00
  • Getting around : the historic center, where the points of interest are located, is entirely pedestrian. Cars can be left in one of the paid parking lots near the center, where public transport also stops
  • Where to park : Parking via 25 Aprile, Lungolago Diaz parking, Monte Baldo parking. On average, paid parking costs € 2.50 per hour, while the daily ticket is € 18.00
  • Where to sleepHotels and b & b from € 62.00 per room – see the offers
  • What to see in the surrounding area : Desenzano del Garda (26.1 km), Gardone Riviera (34.5 km), Bardolino (25.3 km), Lazise (20.8 km), Salò (71.8 km), Verona ( 34.4 km), Brescia (53.9 km)

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